Don’t fret about their happiness, it’s employee effectiveness that counts

15 December 2015 -


New research from Brand Learning reveals the secrets behind growing your business

Jermaine Haughton

The world’s fastest growing companies place far greater importance on the talent and effectiveness of their employees than the happiness of their workers, according to a new study on the changing attitudes to growth among the leading C-Suite executives.

The survey of over 900 senior executives across 42 countries found that some 69% of respondents pointed to the happiness of their customers as the most important driver for business growth, followed by the talent and effectiveness of employees (64%), profit (53%) and revenue (36%).

By contrast, having a positive social impact (11%) and a helpful influence on the environment (9%) ranked as the lowest factors respondents believe will drive business growth.

Surprisingly, only 27% of senior executives, including CEOs and Vice Presidents at blue chip firms including Diageo, Unilever, PepsiCo and Virgin Media, believe the happiness of their employees is a significant catalyst for growing their organisation. This is as staff retention is no longer seen as the key hurdle to achieving growth for many companies and, instead, churn and staff turnover are viewed as inevitable when enforcing significant change programmes.

Therefore, these organisations have focused on creating sustained growth capabilities, which are bigger than any one worker.

Building Momentum

Conducted by Brand Learning, the report defined Global Growth Drivers as companies with a sustained record of at least 6% annual growth over the past 3 years, confidence in their ability to meet their future growth goals and a distant performance culture. Furthermore, the presence of an energised and contributing workforce combined with leaders who are proactive in driving the momentum behind change are characteristic of successful Growth Driver businesses.

Mhairi McEwan, group CEO and co-founder of Brand Learning, said: “Delivering growth requires an organisation to be customer-centred. Yet if they are to deliver an effective and integrated customer experience, leaders need to shift their approach from employee engagement to employee involvement.

“The new growth agenda demands that businesses move beyond paying lip service to the importance of talent to genuinely building organisational capabilities and empowering their employees.”

A quarter of executives (24%) report that leaders who dedicate most of their time to “spreading the word” across the organisation is the most effective strategies to drive corporate change. A further 17% of respondents believe a shake-up in organisational structures and roles to create new behaviours is an equally viable method.

Conversely, the least effective tactics were deemed to be high profile internal communications and conferences (7%) and recognition that new initiatives take the place of something else, they’re not add-ons (11%).

Employees want to be empowered

The research also reveals that businesses must get to grips with a new era of the “questioning employee” to better facilitate growth, with 68% of respondents demanding their company be quicker, responsive and experimental and 63% seeking greater empowerment from their employer.

Customer-centricity, cultivating talent and conscious speed are among the seven compelling forces identified by the survey as key drivers in helping businesses reach Global Growth Driver status. The others are collaboration, curiosity, courage and commitment.

Niall FitzGerald, chairman of Brand Learning and chair of the Growth Drivers Advisory panel, previously CEO and chairman of Unilever, and chairman of Reuters, said: “True Growth Drivers understand that it is the leaders’ behaviour not their rhetoric that matters. You won’t grow a business consistently unless people trust you.

“Embracing this growth agenda demands moving beyond lip-service leadership. It requires a shift in focus from generating short-term profit to creating a common purpose around growth which connects with individual employees and society.”

CMI’s Quality of Working Life research, however, found that employee well-being is a driver behind motivation at work, which is, in turn, linked to productivity. The research discovered that workers who said. They were 100% productive had motivation levels of 81%, but this fell to just 17% of those who felt less than 70% productive. An update to the research is being published early in 2016.

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